I've never done anything where my first draft was any good, and I didn't want to constantly revise and improve it, whether it was the first time I tried to dive or a first draft of a book that I had to throw out or the the TED talk that I rewrote from scratch over and over and over again. And everybody who achieves excellence in any domain knows that it's the constant rewriting and rethinking and revising that makes you good and helps you get better.
And I think once you recognize, hey, you know, feeling threatened or hating somebody else or being offended by somebody else, that's a first draft of a response. Then you can go and write a revision and ask yourself, is that a teachable moment? Did I just learn something about what activates my prosecutor instincts or what puts me in the preaching mindset? And if I understand that better, then I have more control over what mindset I landed. With that in mind, I would say maybe one of the best long term investments we can make as a country is to say, let's teach the next generation of kids to be eager, enthusiastic, curious, humble thinkers.
That's Adam Grant and this is the ritual podcast. The Rich Roll podcast. Hey, everybody, welcome to the podcast. My name is Rich Roll. I am your host. You guys are the audience. And today you guys are in for quite a treat because my guest is none other than organisational psychologist Ted Talker extraordinaire and multiple New York Times best selling author Adam Krantz. Adam is Wharton's top rated professor for seven years straight. He's recognized as one of the world's most cited, most prolific and most influential researchers in topics such as business, economics and work life.
He has been featured everywhere, and his TED talks on original thinkers and givers and takers has been viewed more than 20 million times. Adam's books include Give and Take Originals Option B, which he co-authored with Sheryl Sandberg and his new Bangar, certain to be another massive culture shifting bestseller, is titled Think Again. This book is an absolute must read. I'm a huge fan of Adam's work, have been for a very long time and I could not be more excited to have such a luminary on the show.
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So this is a conversation about many things. We discuss the importance of learning how to rethink our ideas and to unlearn our preprogramming, something I think is super important in this specific moment in history. We talk about how to transcend our own collective biases, how to effectively communicate with others who see the world differently, and strategies for better understanding differing points of view. In addition, we talk about productive ways to help others comprehend your perspective and various subjects like diving, Michigan, swimming, endurance challenges.
Adam also offers sage advice on how to navigate the profound changes in the workplace and the advent of the Home Office catalyzed by covid and many other topics. Given the extent to which we are currently polarized, amplified by algorithm driven social media feeds are self selected information silos and reaffirming news sources and the extent to which this has. Only degraded our individual and collective ability to communicate productively with others. I do think it's more important now than ever to embrace nuance, to learn how to think critically, think carefully, to ask questions and embrace being wrong.
And Adam, my friends, is going to take us there in three, two, one go time.
Well, I'm just absolutely delighted to be able to share some space with you today. I've been a big fan of your work for a very long time. Congrats on the success of the new book. Think again. I just checked like an hour ago. I think it's like number six on Amazon. You're killing it right now. People are really enjoying it. And I'm really excited to to dive into it with you. Before we do that, though, can we geek out on Michigan for a minute?
We have to.
We have multiple things to get get on. OK, let me just say thank you. Your story obviously has been a huge inspiration to so many people. But every time I look at what you've accomplished as an athlete, I just think I don't know how you function in the world. And I would love to have your endurance.
Well, that that sensibility is mutual because I'm fascinated with how you function in the world. I don't know how you get so much stuff done and how you excel in so many areas, but perhaps we can get into it a little bit.
I mean, we have you know, I'm much older than you, but like yourself, I grew up in Michigan. We moved to Washington, D.C. when I was like seven or eight. But I'm from Grosse Pointe. My dad was a Detroit lawyer. My mom was an educator. I was a swimmer. You were a diver. Everybody in my family bleeds masand and blue. And and it's just cool to talk to somebody who's somewhat of the same world.
And I think we might even know some of the same people from that world. Like when you went to Harvard, was Joe Bernau still the swim coach there?
No, I think it was Tim Murphy when I when I got was OK. So a little bit later, I vividly recall I had a I had a kind of an inflection point in my life when I went to University of Michigan on a recruiting trip for the swim team and had some interesting moments with Bruce Campbell and Dick Campbell. And, you know, wow, I'm sort of connected to that community. My grandfather was captain of the University of Michigan swim team, like back in like nineteen twenty nine under that man who the pool is named after.
Amazing. Oh, I didn't I didn't realize your roots were this deep. OK, yeah, yeah, yeah. My dad went to law school at Michigan.
My mom went to University of Michigan. So lots of overlap.
Yeah, there's a ton of overlap here. So we share moms and teacher dads, lawyer, Detroit suburbs.
I found out after I became a diver that my grandmother had been a diver. She never had mentioned it to me. And it just it just came out. One day my mom went to Michigan.
My uncle is the world's most rabid Michigan fan and went to law school there. And I think he hasn't missed an in-person game in 50 years. Wow. And I think I think not going to Michigan for college probably broke my mom's heart. Yeah.
What are you doing? It's like it's like leaving a religion. I know. I know. Especially there's something unique about Michigan in that regard, too. It definitely was similar in my case as well.
You felt that to you and then. Wow. So that's also diving lower. I mean, the Campbell family, obviously, they I guess they belong to a place of their own.
I remember I actually thought about not applying to Michigan for undergrad because I was so terrified of the thought of having DeChambeau as a diving coach. Right. I remember, you know, friends who insisted on only doing one in three metre springboard, being forced to become 10 metre platform divers and then coughing up blood when they crashed. I don't want to be that guy.
Yeah, I mean, it's it's legendary. And I've told this story before, but the experience that I had on this recruiting trip, I was at a party, a house party after swimming and diving meat. And Bruce Campbell handed me a beer. And then he proceeded to perform the greatest party trick that I'd ever seen, where he did a standing backflip holding a cup of beer without spilling any of it. And I just thought that was the most amazing thing I ever I ever had seen.
Then I went on my own journey with alcohol and alcoholism and recovery. And of course, the story of Bruce's is pretty well told and the kind of, you know, tragic circumstances that befell him.
So sad. Yeah. Did you dive at Harvard? I did. And you swam at Stanford, right? I did, yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Did you dive all four years or just a year or two? I stopped after my first year. How'd you guess.
I don't know. You got too busy with other things that seemed to compel your attention.
That's exactly what happened. Yeah, well, the new book is is amazing.
I can't think of a better book more suited for this particular moment than the subjects that you're talking about right now. And in thinking about the book and kind of culture at large, you know, I've spent a lot of time just thinking about how we we communicate right now. And, you know, my sense is that. We are so increasingly calcified in our belief systems and the identities that we form around them, and this is further intensified by social media algorithms that serve up what we want to hear that, you know, enhances our confirmation bias, the kind of tribes that we form online and in our analog lives that were kind of cuing our membership in good standing to.
And there's. In my sense, there seems to be a velocity behind that, like it's becoming more and more intense and it's environmental, right? The idea being that this is just kind of happening to us without any willful input on our part.
And the antidote, which is the thesis of your book, requires a great deal of thought and presence of mind and intentionality.
And I see it almost like a war between these two worlds.
And it's difficult to be sanguine about the future, given the amount of intentionality that's required to kind of rebut, you know, the forces that be out there that are marshalling us in the opposite direction.
I think that's true. I think it's part of the reason that I wanted to write Think Again is to try to unpack. Is there anything we can do to get more open minded and to encourage other people to be that way, too? I think I came out more hopeful than I started. I think for a while this book was that project that I hope someone else would pursue someone else. Go figure this out, get people to, you know, to choose mental flexibility over a foolish consistency, get people to be humble and curious as opposed to arrogance.
And just nobody wrote the book. And eventually I said, all right, I need to take this on.
Obviously, you know, you've been working on this book for a while, and it is current in the sense that it it, you know, tackles covid in some regard, but obviously predates the capital insurrection and, you know, aspects of Kuhnen and some of the other, you know, kind of things that we're seeing unfold right now. When you were watching the Capitol insurrection, how are you thinking about the ideas presented in the book and how these these things kind of, you know, coalesce?
It was a shock. Was was the first thing. Never thought that an insurrection would happen in America. Something you read about happening in other countries. And thank your lucky stars that we don't live in one of those countries. And you know that as an organizational psychologist, I've spent most of my careers trying to study things that are timeless. And I've really deliberately resisted the tamely because I'm interested in ideas, not news. I'm interested in, you know, in rigorous evidence, not current events.
And yet this idea of thinking again, I finished the book right around a time when we're dealing with the greatest polarization I've ever seen and, you know, then an attack on our very democracy. And my first thought was. You know what everyone's now calling the big lie that, you know, the election was stolen from Donald Trump. If we could have gotten many people to rethink their belief in that lie, it's possible the insurrection wouldn't have happened at all.
Mm hmm. And my next thought was, OK, most of these people don't seem to think that they're undermining democracy. They think they're saving democracy. And that requires a whole reexamination of, you know, not just a belief, but a belief system, a worldview, and I don't I don't know that that I know how to tackle that. I think I have you know, I have some ideas and insights about how to begin to chip away at some of those wrong beliefs.
But I think it's an extreme. I guess my reaction was there's a sequel to this book that needs to be written about conspiracy theories, about false news that is very different from. I was trying to deal with what I thought was, you know, every day resistance to admitting that you're wrong and to knowing what you don't know. And I think what your question makes me wonder is, is is the everyday version of that now extreme enough that we need that book for more people than I realized?
Yeah, I would like to read that book. I think there is something qualitatively different now about the way that we in our magnetised by certain ideas and the conspiracy theory is its own kind of genius. And all of this I mean, you did talk about it in the book. You have the example of the flat earth or and you have that graphic, that circular graphic. But when you think about conspiracy theories in general.
You're dealing with a set of people who are under the belief that they're the ones who are thinking more open minded about this idea, they're the ones who have taken the red pill. They're they're seeing things that are seeing things more clearly. They're standing outside of the conventional wisdom. And that makes it very different than some other kind of well held belief that that, you know, informs identity. It does.
And it is, I think. I think this is it's a huge uphill battle. I've been reading a lot lately about the psychology of conspiracy theories, why people adopt them, and especially why or when they might be willing to reconsider them. And I think it's hard to it's hard to have this conversation without talking about cognitive dissonance. Right. Dating, dating back to the classic Leon Festinger work, which basically said if you've already committed to a belief, then any threats to that belief, if they if they force you to to treat the world as a less pleasant place for you to, you know, to challenge your ego, to put aside, you know, pre-existing commitments you've made, to walk back statements you've made in public, that it's easier just to assimilate whatever is going on into the statements you've already made and defend your you know, your longstanding beliefs, because then you you avoid the discomfort of doubt and you get the comfort of conviction.
Right. And I think that that part is clear.
We understand why that happens.
I think the undoing, the rethinking, the unlearning of those beliefs is a heck of a lot harder. And I think the most interesting thing that I've learned lately is that there's there's some research on what's called the cynical genius illusion, where when somebody's cynical people tend to assume that means they're smart because they don't accept things at face value. It's actually the opposite. People who are extremely cynical tend to be lower and intelligent than their peers. And of course, there's a big difference between cynicism and skepticism.
Cynicism is is not believing anything you hear. And skepticism is being a critical thinker and saying show me the evidence. Right. And one of the reasons that cynicism, cynicism seems to emerge is it's a defense mechanism against being manipulated. It's a defense mechanism that people gravitate toward if they get manipulated a lot because they're not that smart. Hmm. And I think the ways that we try to attack that are just it's like dumping fuel on a fire, because the first thing that, you know, that quote unquote, the elite does or that the mainstream media does or that universities do is we go and accuse people of believing stupid things.
And their fear is that they're not smart. And that's why they're clinging to these conspiracies in the first place, because they make they make them feel smart.
And so I think we need to be really careful about, you know, about threatening people's intelligence, about questioning people's, you know, about questioning people's ability to to form judgments and reason. And I think there are better ways to surface that which we could talk about. But that was an aha moment for me.
Yeah. It seems like, although intelligence IQ and IQ are important, we also have to consider, you know, other aspects of of of people's lives, like the extent to which they're disenfranchised, they're alienated, they're frustrated in their path and how those things, you know, motivate people to cotton on to ideas that otherwise they would, you know, think better of. Yeah, I think that's right.
And yet one of the things I've learned and you know, that's from the book, but I haven't I certainly didn't think much about how to apply it to to these kinds of conspiracy theories. When I was writing the book. It turns out that how questions tend to be more powerful than why questions you go to somebody who believes something that that you think is is not consistent with the truth and you ask them why they believe what they believe. And they have a bunch of premade reasons that they find compelling.
Mm hmm. If instead you asked them, well, how did that come to be or how does that work?
They're much more likely to see the gaps in their own understanding and to recognize the complexity of the issue. And I actually had a chance to to apply this recently. I was talking with a friend who believes in some vaccine conspiracies that, you know, the government and Big Pharma are in cahoots to basically pull the wool over your eyes and convince you that vaccines are much safer than they really are.
I said, look, I, I, I first of all, some conspiracies are real. Let's let's put that on the table and we can make a list of them. Secondly, I know that there are plenty of vaccines that have documented side effects and risks.
And we can look even at the published evidence, right. In peer review journals and say, look, this is this is a complex issue. What I want to understand, though, is that if this is so much worse than you think it is, why is there not a single scientist within your who's willing to go against the establishment in a world where the incentive is to be right, not to just toe the party line? And also, why can you not find a single credible journalist who wants to win a Pulitzer Prize for exposing this conspiracy?
And he couldn't really answer those questions, and then I went a step further and I said, OK, and just help me think through how a giant government bureaucracy and all these pharma companies wouldn't have a single internal whistleblower. And how you think they're incompetent. You've told me they're incompetent.
How how would they have even orchestrated this to, you know, to keep the facts from everybody who's, you know, who's in that world?
And as he thought through how to do this, he said, well, you know, maybe, maybe, maybe they couldn't have maybe, you know, people just have it wanted to publish the studies that, you know, they cast doubt on vaccine efficacy or safety. And maybe those are underrepresented in the peer reviewed journals. And that was a much more reasonable place that he started.
Mm hmm. Right.
So the idea and this was the subject of this New York Times opinion piece, basically that that came out the other day, the idea being that you approach these conversations rather than from the paradigm that you outline in the book, which is as prosecutor, as preacher or as a politician, but rather lead with curiosity, ask a lot of questions and receive the answers to those questions without judgment, but rather more curiosity. That's the goal.
Is that accurate? Yeah, I think that's a great summary of of both the mindset of approaching this like a scientist and saying, look, I'm not going to preach that I'm right. I'm not going to prosecute you for being wrong, but I'm also not going to be a politician and just tell you what you want to hear to try to campaign for your approval. What I'm going to do is I'm going to as a scientist, I'm going to say, you know, Rich, this is totally fascinating to me that your beliefs are so different from mine.
And I genuinely want to understand them better. And if you could help me make sense of how this works and how this played out. And then, you know, I also want to understand, I'm sure I have some beliefs that are wrong. And I suspect you also do, too, right? Nobody nobody is omniscient. I'd love to understand what kind of information would lead you to consider changing your mind. And I'm also thrilled to talk about what might change my mind.
And then the hope is we're both going to find out that our knowledge was incomplete through this conversation. And of course, it doesn't work if that's a tactic. Right, because the other person will see right through it. But if you adopt what counseling psychologists call motivational interviewing, and you really try to understand the person's reasons for change and what would lead them to consider shifting their opinion a little bit, then you might surface information that would lead them to change their own mind.
So let's dig into that a little bit deeper, but maybe we can start with elaborating a little bit more on this prosecutor, preacher politician rubric that you've set up here.
The original idea comes from a colleague of mine, Phil Tetlock, who's studied political psychology and social psychology most of his career. And Phil observed that in decision making and judgment, we spend a lot of time thinking like preachers, prosecutors and politicians, and we're usually not aware of it when we're doing it.
A preacher mindset is essentially believing that you've already seen the light and now you have to come and proselytize to everybody else and get them on board. So you're you've drunk the intellectual Kool-Aid and now your job is to serve it. A prosecuting mindset is more about proving everyone else wrong and winning your side of the case and then a politician mindset is is really about saying, OK, I've got some constituents here and I need to lobby for their buy in. I want their support.
And my big worry, Rich, was when I learned about this framework, I thought, OK, preaching and prosecuting, stop those stop you from thinking again, because if I know I'm right and I'm sure you're wrong, I don't need to budge in any of my opinions or any of the knowledge that I hold. I just need to convince you to do that. And in politician mode, we see people sounding a lot more flexible, but it's really just adjusting what they say to fit in.
It's not actually changing what they believe internally, and that's just basically flip flopping.
Yeah, I think I fall mostly into the the politicking camp as a really as a I'm surprised to hear you say that.
Really? Why would you say that?
Well, I would have guessed just because of the way that you've inspired so many people, I would have guessed that that preaching might be the default of those three for you.
Preaching is very uncomfortable for me. I'm much more interested in in approval and being liked to a default in a not so great way. Like I've really major life decisions based on approval or doing the socially acceptable. I mean, I was a lawyer for over a decade, you know, trying to jam a square peg into a round hole for for way too long and very reluctant to get out of it, out of fear of social repercussions and familial expectations and the like.
And, you know, I would sit in depositions or in hearings and just see the grey and everything and just felt like I'm a really bad advocate because I really want to appreciate the nuance and all of this. And can't we just all get along like I'm conflict averse, I'm a people pleaser. And, you know, I host these podcasts and I want to be challenging in the conversations. But also I only have the people on that I respect and admire.
So I'm sitting here, you know, and if I'm being honest, it's like I want Adam to like me. I want him to respect me. You know, that's that's like, you know, just calling myself out in a vulnerable way over, like, my own motivations. And so I spent a lot of time thinking about that. But I also I want to throw like a little bit of a test case out to you.
So I've been vegan for about 14 years now. And I guess for better or worse part, that's part of my identity. And I spent a lot of time thinking about how I how I, you know, embody that ethos, how I carry that message, how I advocate for something that I believe in. And, you know, I've realised that for my own personal, you know, makeup, I don't feel it doesn't feel natural to me to be a preacher about it.
I'm not interested in taking other people's inventory and criticising their decisions. I don't think it's effective. And I kind of settled into a mode that's a little bit outside of your paradigm, which is this idea of of being kind of a lighthouse. Like if I live my life well and equip myself as an athlete, as, you know, somebody who is excelling intellectually, mentally, emotionally and just living well, it acts more like a magnet or a tractor beam that will bring the the receptive audience to me who might be willing or interested to hear about it.
And it also goes back to 12 step and how I got sober and the tools that I learned in the program, which are all about not giving advice, but just sharing your experience. And so I'm curious about how that fits into how you think about these ideas of of influencing people and getting people to kind of open up their minds and consider different concepts.
Wow. I think that's brilliant. I'm kicking myself now because if we had this conversation a year ago, I would have written that in to think again. Oh well now I'm bummed.
I wish I'd met you earlier. It's not my it's not my idea, though, but it's just something that seems to work better than any of these other three options, although it doesn't start with a P.
Yeah, yeah. No, it's not alliterative. And I you know, I think I think you articulated it so beautifully though.
It's. There's there's a lot to react to there, so I want to I want to double click on a few things you said. Let's just start with the lighthouse idea. I think that that might be the most compelling workaround that I have, I don't even want to call it a workaround, that's I think that's not doing justice to it. It's the most compelling solution I can think of to the tension between what I guess was my preferred alternative to preaching, prosecuting and politicking, which is thinking like a scientist and the need if you want to influence people in the world to do some preaching.
And I've always been uncomfortable with that tension because I guess I should take a step back and just say thinking like a scientist is is what I would love for more people to do more often. And I don't mean you have to go and wear a white coat all the time or carry around test tubes or even own a microscope. Right. What I mean is that the just the broadest idea of of science is the pursuit of knowledge and truth. And if your identity is anchored in being a scientist, it means that you don't have to stick to a certain set of beliefs at any one time.
You want to find out what's going to be effective or what the right way is to live your values. And that means when you form an opinion, it's a hypothesis. You can go out and test it. You can observe, you can interact, you can run experiments. And the hope is that you're as excited to find out that you were wrong as you are to prove that you were right.
Because either way, you've you know, you've you've potentially learned something.
And I would argue even you learn more when you discover that your hypothesis was false. Then where then when you're validated.
And yet, Phil Tetlock, when when I talked to him first about this framework, saying, OK, I, I want everyone to think more like scientists, he said, well, yeah, but sometimes you have to talk much more like a preacher in order to be heard. Yeah. You know, let's just look at any pundit on TV or any leader who gives an inspiring speech.
And I've never liked that as as something that you have to do. And I think you just gave an alternative, which is to say, OK, I can think like a scientist I can test in my own life whether I'm going to be I'm going to be at my best in an Iron Man when when I go vegan. Right. That's an experiment you ran. And then once I do that, if I'm willing to share what I've learned from that and I talk about that publicly, I don't have to tell other people to do it.
I don't have to preach about it. I'm just I'm just telling my story. And that will draw people to me. I think that I just think that's ingenious.
Well, it's effective. It seems to be more effective.
And I think it's, you know, a sort of corollary to that for me is is a more kind of Buddhist or Eastern philosophical perspective on this, which is that I'm not attached to whether or not I'm convincing anybody to change. Like, I'm just I'm carrying this certain vibration. I'm happy to talk about issues that I care about if you approach me or you're interested. But I'm not interested in proselytizing. I'm interested in, you know, living my best life.
And it's this idea of attraction rather than promotion, which is core to the whole 12 step philosophy.
Yes. And it's it's so consistent with this stance of motivational interviewing, which is I'm not here to force you to change. I'm here to help you if I can uncover your own motivation for change. But that's up to you.
And I think the person on the receiving end of it feels the difference between somebody who is really wedded to an outcome versus somebody who's like, hey, I'm just telling you this like it's your business, what you do with this information or not.
It's such a paradox because my biggest face is going into prosecutor mode. It just I think the cartoon that could be my life story is the one where this guy sitting at a computer and his wife says, what's wrong? And he says, someone is wrong on the Internet.
You're right. Yeah. And he can't sleep at all.
That's just as dumb as as a social scientist when somebody believes something that goes against the weight of the evidence. I think I felt for a long time like it was my moral responsibility to try to correct them. Right.
And not only was that way too high and mighty of me and self-righteous, it also didn't work to your point about effectiveness, have you?
I don't I don't see you trolling people on Twitter, though. Like, you don't get involved in that kind of stuff.
No, I but I have I've written some articles that I think led people to really misjudge me, as you know, as being actually a close colleague of mine, one of the people who I consider part of my challenge network, not not my support network, one of my most thoughtful critics said to me, Do you want to spend your career being a professional debunker? Right, I said, no, I want to I want to build ideas up, not tear them down, but I also believe that if somebody is selling snake oil, that we should make the world aware of that.
And that that tension has been really tricky for me.
But I think this idea of being a lighthouse and saying, look, here's my analysis of the evidence and here's my experience of playing it, what do you make of that?
The irony in it for me is it really invalidates one of my core beliefs, which is when you have a goal, you should work as hard as you can to achieve it. And in this case, it is very Buddhist, like you said, letting go of the goal a little bit and saying, look, I made my mission here is not to persuade. It's to share. It's to teach. It's to learn. That actually makes me more persuasive precisely because I'm not trying to be persuasive.
Yeah, well, I think it gets into the mysteries of of the of the human mind in the sense that what wins the day isn't necessarily the most sound proof, logical argument. More often than not, at least in my own experience. And I'm curious what you make of this.
It's if you can if you can really emotionally connect with the person that you're talking to and engender some level of trust, which has nothing to do with logic, that ultimately can be the lever that moves the needle more than, you know, the you know, the facts of the case or the scientific aspects of whatever it is that you're discussing.
I mean, that's certainly consistent with my read of the data. It's stunning to me that. When I think about these experiments, the Korean she run, for example, they're just saying to somebody who has a different opinion than you. I respect people who have clear principles, is enough to reduce animosity and lead to more openness in a conversation. It's one of the simplest demonstrations of your point. And yet it makes me think that maybe what what you sort of sheepishly said is, you know, more of a politician sometimes than I would like to be is an advantage because it leads you to build that connection and that trust.
And I have to tell you, just to lay back a little bit rich, I'm flattered that you want me to like you, because here here I come on your show thinking I always wanted to be an athlete. I was never talented enough at any sport to become a real athlete. I got just good enough to dive in college. And I look at what you've achieved and think, I wish I had the endurance that I could do, you know, 300 plus miles of running, swimming and biking.
I wish I could I could have the discipline in my eating habits and make nutrition enough of a priority in my life to become as fit as you've become. And so I came on here thinking, OK, this this is completely a Trojan horse for me. I didn't I didn't necessarily write the book in order to have this conversation. But part of the joy of writing a book like this is cool. I'm going to come here. I'm going to soak up a little bit of the way that Rich Royal thinks, and maybe I will end up adopting a better philosophy of fitness for my own life.
So that's my secret mission for coming. All right.
Well, we can we can talk all of that, you know, at some later point. I'm very flattered that you would say that. And I would have to say, you know, likewise, like when you dumped me on Twitter, I was like, I couldn't believe what you've done for me. I was so excited. So it's a mutual admiration society here. I'll try not to make I think that you've got to stop throwing diving under the bus.
Come on. Diving deserve to be thrown under the bus. No, it doesn't. Come on does. Well, OK, so let me let me prosecute myself on this because I want to I want to hear your counterargument. And I know this is this is more going into debate mode that I've advocated for in the book. But, you know, maybe we should rethink some of the things I wrote in the spirit of the book. I think the thing about diving is.
It's it looks really complex, but it's just a very small number of skills like you, you learn you learn timing on the board so that you can jump a little bit higher.
You learn to throw your arms forward or back to create rotation. You work on your flexibility so that you can spin faster. You learn to twist a little bit, and then you just have to get air sense or good visuals and put your hands in front of your head at a good dive. Takes less than two seconds to execute. Compare that with the slog of you go into to a pool.
So I learned I learned to do a front two and a half with a full twist so I could flip twice, twist words, dive in headfirst. And that took me three years of serious diving practice to do in six years of a life in the pool. I could not learn to swim. The butterfly stroke literally cannot do the butterfly which you competed in.
And you can swim faster than a butterfly than I can swim freestyle.
How is what I learned, if not easier than what you imagine?
Because to each his own, like I could never I couldn't dive to save my life, no matter how much I practiced. So anybody who's very. I did. Yeah. And anybody who's very proficient in a specific thing tends to under index for how difficult that thing is. So basically all I'm saying to you is celebrate the fact that you were a diver and stop saying that it's like the nerd sport and all of that and that maybe the divers will be happy, happy to do that.
But I'm interested in because you have this this background as a as a diver and as an athlete, is there a nexus between what you learned in sport and this, you know, incredible superhuman focus that you have and this, you know, ability to be productive at a level that most people can't comprehend?
Well, I don't accept any of the premises. OK, the question, but I realize I realize there's a perception in the world that I get a lot done. And it's incredibly strange to me because most days I feel totally unproductive. And I don't know if I just have unreasonable goals for myself or or how to explain that. But I think one of the things that. One of the things that diving I don't know if I learned it in diving or if it just reinforced the value of it for me and then it became more hardwired, was just the the value of focusing on one thing at a time.
The number of people I know who are multitasking is not necessarily even in the minute, but in the day is much greater than I would like it to be. I think that computers are great at parallel processing. As humans, we are built to be serial processors. And I don't just mean that if I'm checking my phone while we're talking, I'm not going to be coherent. I mean that if I'm trying to accomplish two things today, I'm going to do both of those less effectively than if I just have one goal today.
And that was what diving really was. It was, yeah, I'll go to practice and I would I would max out. Usually it was two and a half or three hours before I start to get blisters on my feet or from repeated days of practice or, you know, my shoulders would start to hurt or my form would just start to fall apart. And I needed to take a break. But then it meant I'm studying the video of my own practice to really internalize what my coach is telling me.
I'm analyzing what changes I might want to make that my coaches didn't see. I'm heading over to a trampoline to practice some of the techniques that don't require water. I'm working on my stretching. And that single mindedness was, I think, other than having incredible coaches, was the only reason that I got good at diving.
And it's it's just it's kind of it's startling to me. It's startling is the wrong word. It's it's mesmerizing to me that people think you can be good at anything when you're trying to be good at multiple things. And I'm not saying you can't you can't master multiple things in a in a year or even in a month.
But what I want to do is I want to have not work life balance or even project project balance. I want to have rhythm, which means, you know, today I've got one song that I'm playing or better yet, I've got one verse of that song.
And then tomorrow we'll go over to the chorus. We'll be right back. But first, we're brought to you today by on running the fastest growing running shoe brand on the planet. I've been consistently running in and evangelizing on running shoes and gear for about three and a half years at this point, because basically they're just a notch above the competition, all on running shoes from road to trail have a super beautiful, modern, minimalistic aesthetic. They've got great colors.
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All right, let's get back into it. Right, I mean, that that dovetails pretty nicely into this idea that you have about attention management versus time management and your ability to be productive is calibrated with your ability to really invest your your attention and your focus on one thing at a time.
Yeah, I think my big frustration with time management is that the more you try to optimize your calendar, the more aware you become of how many hours you waste in the day, in the week. And that that just is it's discouraging and deflating to me. And I decided at some point that what I wanted to do is get better at managing my attention. And that meant that I had to have clarity about the people in the projects that mattered to me.
And then if I was laser focused on those, it wouldn't matter how long anything took because my time is aligned with my values and my goals. And I think that, you know, in some cases that just means, I guess what I would say is attention management sometimes gets me in trouble because my attentional filters are so high that my peripheral vision gets gone. And if I'm if I'm locked into a goal of finishing a task today, let's say I'm writing an op ed like that New York Times, one that you referenced.
I set a goal a few weeks ago finishing a draft of it, and I was late to two meetings. I missed one deadline. Right. And I think I'm lucky to be in a job where I have the freedom to, you know, to set my own deliverables. And I've also let everyone I know who works with me know that one of my biggest vices is that I have a chronic inability to disengage from a task until it's done to my satisfaction, or at least until I made real progress on it.
Because I think those moments of flow of deep work are I don't say they're rare, but they're precious. They need to be protected. And I want to I want to get every ounce of creativity and energy out of them when I when I get into them. Yeah.
I mean, you can't tasks which when you're in that process of creation and there is a real qualitative difference between makers and managers like makers really need to protect that time to do the thing that they do. And you can't you can't toggle in between tasks when you're in the process of trying to make something. And so it's not surprising that it would compel you to be late or miss other things, because the priority has to go towards taking advantage of that flow when it when it descends upon you.
Whereas the manager mindset is very different. They're their tasks switching all the time, and it's about their interactions with lots of people and lots of emails and meetings and all of that kind of stuff which are really, you know, just massive distractions to anybody who is more of a maker or a creator.
Yes. And I think this is one of the opportunities in front of us now with remote work becoming very real for millions, if not hundreds of millions or billions of people.
I think I keep thinking of this Leslie Perlow experiment where she said, what if we just give people quiet time three mornings a week where they're told, don't schedule meetings, no interruptions. You can actually just concentrate on focus work. And she did this at a Fortune 500 company in India with engineers. If people were encouraged to do that themselves, 47 percent above average productivity. Wow.
If the organization instituted as a policy, it said, look, we mean this Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, no meetings, no interruptions before noon, 65 percent above average productivity. And if you break that down, what's going on there? Well, some of it is you are just benefiting from more flow and more deep work, but some of it is also just plain efficiency that you check your inbox after lunch, having had a productive morning and you realize that six people had the same question.
And now instead of having six different conversations, you can call those people together in one meeting. It only takes one hour out of your day. And then you've also helped those people build a network of acquaintances or maybe even strangers who didn't realize that they were working on similar problems.
And I've watched a lot of organizations just say, you know what? We can't protect people's time because we have customers or we have clients that, you know, that that impose demands on us.
And my response to them has been, well, actually, don't you think this is how you treat your clients to be more effective and productive to to say, look, we are here to be available to you and helpful to you wherever we can, and in order to do the best job, not only reacting to your problems and fighting every fire that comes up, but also really rethinking how we solve problems in the first place or better yet, how to prevent problems at scale.
We need some protected time. And so, of course, we're happy to hear from you if it's an emergency.
But we're going to have one day a week where we don't schedule meetings or we're going to have a couple mornings a week where we don't take calls. And we want you to know that's part of how we serve you.
It's interesting. I mean, the it's counterintuitive in the sense that from a managerial perspective, you would think that people would then just use that time to go fuck off and do whatever they want. They're not going to actually use that for some kind of deep work. They're going to go, you know, I don't know, go run errands or something like that.
Well, if you're a bad manager, that's probably what they will do. I guess you haven't you haven't earned any trust or loyalty. But if you're a manager who who, instead of being a micromanager, is a macro manager who says, my job is to figure out the purpose and the mission of the team and the organization and then help you identify your unique individual role and see your contribution here. And then I'm going to get out of the way and not tell you how to do everything or when to do everything.
You get a lot of intrinsic motivation in response to that. And we've got, at this point, almost half a century of evidence on the benefits of what I guess classically Douglas MacGregor would have called a theory why as opposed to Theory X approach where, you know, whether you believe that people are lazy and can't be trusted or people are intrinsically motivated by mastery and learning and purpose, those beliefs often become self-fulfilling prophecies. And you get exactly what you expected.
Yeah, interesting. Well, as somebody who spent their entire career kind of devoted to better understanding, the psychology of the workplace this past year has to be, you know, fascinating for you to see the ascent of the Home Office. And, you know, everything that that covid has has brought us and the disruptions and how we work. So what are some of the insights that you've been able to develop out of this? You know, very strange and unique year that we've just experienced.
There have been a lot not surprisingly, this is the experiment that nobody opted into. And since we're stuck with it, we might as well be learning from it. I think what am I my first I guess one of the first revelations for me was even Bernstein and Hili Blunden collected data on just March through May. How is communication changing now that essentially everybody who could is working remotely?
And they found that communication with strong ties went up about 40 percent on average, that with your closest colleagues, your boss, your direct reports, the clients that you're in touch with regularly, you knew you weren't just going to run into them or you weren't flying out to see them. And you worked hard to schedule extra opportunities to connect with them, usually over zip. Communication with wheaty, as though you're more distant acquaintances, your suppliers, the mentor you occasionally talk to.
That was actually down 10 percent. And this is bad news when it comes to rethinking things, getting a fresh perspective, because retailers tend to give us more novel information than strong ties. Strong ties tend to know the same people in the same stuff that you do. They give you a redundant knowledge. Weak ties are traveling different circles. They're meeting different people. They're learning different things. So they're much more likely to open up fresh access to a creative idea.
And because we're not having those spontaneous creative collisions like we used to before the pandemic, I think one of the things that we have to figure out is how do we engineer interactions between people and their more distant acquaintances or allow them even to learn from strangers. And I think I don't think we have good I don't think we have good practices yet to figure that out.
How have you navigated that, Rich? Well, I'm very lucky in the sense that I've been able to continue to pursue my living where a lot of people are not so lucky. So I feel extremely grateful. A big part of the show that I do, which is the the gravamen of my vocation, is sitting across from another individual life and doing it in person. And, you know, we've set up safety protocols and I've been able to do that to some extent.
But, you know, like what we're doing right now, some of them have been forced to be, you know, on a digital platform, which is not my preference. Like, for me, this experience is all about like trying to connect as deeply as possible with the person that I'm talking to.
And and very often these people become part of my life. Maybe they become part of my challenge network or my support network or my board of advisors or just friends. And, yeah, that's incredibly valuable to me. I mean, it's a gift to be able to share, you know, the wisdom of people like yourself with so many people, but. The enriching aspect of it for me is, is the in-person connection and my kind of personal strategy with all of these conversations is that the emotional connection comes first.
It's less about the information. Like I trust that if I can connect with the person who's sitting across from me, find a way in to really identify with them, that whatever information needs to be imparted will be imparted. And I just try to be as present as possible for that. And I'm able to achieve that to some extent when I'm looking at you on a screen. But it's not the same. Well, it's still comes through loud and clear to me, I can I can feel it, I can see it.
I can hear it. I should say, first of all, I would love to be friends in case in case that's on your list, I'm going to call you my friend now. So, I mean, we're friends. Consider it done. I, I mean, I felt coming in, I felt like I knew you already because I've I've followed your work with such great interest and it's so clear what you stand for and what your values are that I, I felt like I knew you.
So there was that that connection, even if swimmers and divers are supposed to not get along. Right.
But I felt the weirdest pairing of two sports into one that I've that it shouldn't exist. I'm sure meltwater is literally the only opinions on that.
Like, well, these two things both involve water. Let's put them on a team together. Right. I guess there's also a masochistic element of both, though, which is I think you both both of us opted in the more more deliberate pain than many sports require. Yeah, I don't I don't remember basketball or soccer ever hurting nearly as much as diving did. Yeah.
Swimming is a glutton for people who who enjoy self punishment, I can tell you that.
But I did want to ask you. Sure. I've been I've been curious about you know, there's just I think we're going to a wealth of data in the next few years about in person versus video versus audio interactions. And one thing I have noticed, I'm also drawn to the rapport and the connection. And I've always been the person who, if I have a choice, I want to sit down in a room with someone because I can I feel like I can bond with them more.
I also it's easier to get into that that berstein of you know, we're we're just we have this energy flying back and forth and and the conversation is literally bursting with ideas. I have noticed, though, in the past few years of podcasting that I think I have deeper conversations sometimes when I'm not in the room with people. And it's because I'm less attuned to this question of, OK, how did they react to what I just said? Do they like me?
You know, is it was that awkward or did it build rapport? And I'm much more comfortable with an awkward pause.
I'm much more interested in in trying to figure out where is this conversation going to take us. And so I wonder if there's a purity of discussion that comes from distance. What does that been like for you? That's very interesting.
There's certainly some truth in that the question that popped into my head when you were describing that is whether there's a difference between. When you're doing it on Zoom and you're looking at the person versus an audio only platform where you don't have to worry about, like, I don't want to look down at my notes, I want to maintain eye contact with you. But if we were doing this on a different platform where we weren't doing video and I could be staring at my notes, maybe I would have better questions chambered.
But I also wouldn't be as fully present for the experience that's happening. Yeah, there's a tradeoff there. Yeah.
So I don't know. And to kind of answer the other aspect of your question, you know, how is this experience bad? I mean, outside of the podcast itself, I went into this pandemic thinking I've been training for this my whole life like I'm an introvert. I like my solitary time. This is going to be just fine. I'll be able to cancel all these things on my calendar that I didn't really want to do anyway and focus on some deep work and just being with my family.
But none of us would have expected that it would be going on this long. And even, you know, despite those those predispositions that I have, I do feel lonely and I do miss my friends. And, you know, I find myself yearning for that interpersonal connection. And I feel terrible for my kids who are being deprived of experiences that, you know, no child should be deprived of in terms of their ability to socially interact with their peers.
Well, first of all, I'm sorry to hear that. I think I can relate to so much of that. And I think everyone assumed going in that introverts were going to have an easier time with this, that extroverts and this is another Bernstine Blunden at all finding there was no difference in the well-being of introverts and extroverts during the early stages of the PennyMac. And I think that's in part because everyone craves connection, even those of us who are introverts.
You're one. I'm one. We are energized by interactions with other people. We're also more likely to be overstimulated by too much of that interaction. Yeah, and I think that's where the physiological difference between extroverts and introverts lies according to the science there.
But I think that the loneliness piece of this is real for a lot of people. And I wonder.
I think one thing I've started to rethink and I really underestimated is just how much casual interaction matters in my life. I never thought just, you know, seeing somebody at a restaurant without even talking to them necessarily. Right. And it never dawned on me that that was part of feeling a sense of community or, you know, just deep belonging in a place. And I think that my hope is I appreciate that now in a way that I that I didn't before.
Well, in thinking about the workplace and what this year has taught us. You talked a little bit about enhancements in productivity. What do you think what's your estimation of once we get back to, you know, our ability to safely interact, like what is going to snap back to the way it was before and what's not? I mean, we're seeing migrations of people moving out of cities and finding, you know, places to live that are more affordable, et cetera.
So I think certainly there's permanent implications to this where people are realizing they didn't need to do a lot of the things they were doing before.
And yet we do have to get back to some level of healthy interpersonal interaction. So what does that you know, where is your thinking in terms of that?
I wish I had a crystal ball. I think it's it's definitely still a mystery. I can tell you the data that I've seen so far would would predict a few things.
First one is Nick Bloom and his colleagues just did a nationally representative survey of 15000 Americans.
And they found that essentially people are expecting to do usually somewhere between 20 and 25 percent of their workday is remote. And that's taking into account individual preferences, as well as the organizational policies that are starting to emerge.
And most of that is hybrid.
That's not, you know, a bunch of companies saying we're going to be fully in the office and a bunch of workplaces saying we're going to be fully remote. That's most people and most leaders saying, you know, we'd love to have people in the office three or four days a week and then work from anywhere the rest. The challenge with that is what kind of office space do you need?
Right. If if you want do you want everyone to be there three days, then you need a huge office and it's a major waste. Are you going to do shift work like a hospital where people come in at different times or even on different days? Will then you're missing the you know, the the sense of cohesiveness and a culture.
I think those are the kinds of questions that a lot of leaders are grappling with right now.
I think one thing we can be we can be reasonably confident in predicting is we're not going to see we're not going to see a return to this giant hub, tiny spokes model that used to organize most workplaces right where everybody is, you know, wanting to be at headquarters. And then, you know, you see occasional people who are, you know, in satellites.
I think we're going to see probably a much smaller hub and then more affordable places to work in different parts of a country or different parts of the world for a lot of organizations.
But giant caveat on this is people want to be where the most senior leaders, they want to be, where they can get face time with powerful people they want to be, where they can get mentored by experienced experts and they want to be where they think they can be part of what is the real community. Yeah, and I don't know how I don't see that going away. And so I think we're still going to end up with hubs that are just going to be smaller hubs.
It wasn't that long ago that the idea of working from home was this huge benefit. And now the idea of getting to go into an office just seems so appealing. You know, it's it's very strange how the mind works around that. But I would I would tend to agree with that. I mean, I think it's going to be fascinating to see. And and I'm wondering, do you have your finger on the pulse of people's satisfaction with their vocation when they're working from home, like in this new situation?
Like, are people happier, like setting aside the other aspects of covid? Like, do they enjoy this more or are they, you know, waiting until they can go back into the office? Like, where does that fall?
It's another giant question mark because what we have our data pre pandemic when nobody had the same experience working remotely that we do now. And then we have data during the pandemic when we have all these confounds of, you know, I'm afraid I might get covid and there are limitations on what I can do and who I can see. Hmm.
My guess is, though, there is there's probably a net benefit to flexibility.
That doesn't mean you should be permanently remote. Right. But you have the choice to work from from wherever you want and to do that at least part of your time.
I think that that seems to be good for well-being. And the early date on this, there's a meta analysis, Gajendra and Harrison, 2007, they cumulated every study that had been done to date and what that was called telecommuting, which sounds like a thing of the 1990s, but they basically meant remote work.
And they found that as long as people came to work two and a half days a week, performance was higher.
Satisfaction was higher and there were no costs to the quality of co-worker relationships. I think that then tracks with a lot of what we're seeing in the pandemic, which is people don't like their jobs less on average when they're working remotely. They found that they you know, there are some things they like better and there are some things they like worse. I think the you know, the general upsides have been people love the autonomy and freedom. They appreciate not having to commute, although some of them will choose to commute again.
They like also, you know, in some cases the fact that they get to choose just a work environment where they're comfortable. I think on the flip side, people miss the structure. They miss the community, they miss the culture. And I think we want all of those things. So I think we're going to mostly need to be hybrid to get all those things.
Yeah, I mean, Zoome fatigue is real.
What's behind that for you? Because I've been hearing a lot about this and I felt it from time to time. When you talk about Ziman fatigue, what's contributing to that for you?
I'm not somebody who's on tons of Zoome calls, so I might not be the best person to field this question. But I just I don't like the static nature. I don't like sitting still staring at a screen. I don't know I don't know what it is. I can't put my finger on it, but it makes me feel very restless, like I just want to get up and move around. Mm hmm. I don't know. I mean, I've got it.
Is it I mean, it's got to be a thing that's that's you know, it's not like it's going to be in the DSM five or whatever. But but but it's it's definitely a real condition.
I mean, what are some of the experiences that people have shared with you about that?
What I'm seeing so far? Yeah. For some people, it's it's just I'm metastatic, which it sounds like it's your experience. For some people, it's the the exhaustion of talking into a screen and trying to read people's facial cues or.
Pass tone in a way that's never quite as clear as if you're actually in the same room for some people, it's, you know, it's the lack of, you know, of a sense of just being in the same place.
And, you know, that that's just interfering with connection. And my guess is, of all these factors, just sitting still, staring at a screen, that that would probably be the biggest contributor to it.
But we have a lot of people have the flexibility to try to change that. Right. I've watched a lot of people say, all right, I don't need to be on camera.
I'm doing walking meetings, or we've even agreed as a team that we're going to take a couple of our standing meetings and we're going to make those, hey, you can do a workout. It probably shouldn't be an intense workout. You shouldn't go swimming, definitely.
But, you know, you can go for a walk or you can go for a jog or even, you know, play catch outside with your kids. Right. During a couple of these meetings a week.
And I think that we've been too wedded to the idea that you always have to sit in front of a computer in order to be working. And I just don't think that's true anymore.
And that that's a basic list of things we could probably rethink a little more than we do.
Yeah, I mean, I'm certainly no fan of how it's being used in for for for high school education right now.
I've got a daughter who, you know, she's on Zoome from like eight to four classes and she's just not wired to sit and stare at a screen like that. And then she's got homework and she's in an art high school and then she's got her art projects. And the stress level on the anxiety with her is through the roof. And I'm like, what is this for? Is this this is not in service to her best interest right now. It's really deeply problematic.
I think I'm sad to hear that. And I'm also a little surprised because I've read evidence now both from a UK study and a U.S. study, that teenagers are actually doing better from a well-being perspective. So lower depression, lower anxiety rates during parts of this pandemic.
And it seems to be the case that one of the big mechanisms behind that is it's hard to get bullied over and you don't quite worry as much about what you're wearing and who is excluding you at the lunch table. It's this virtual and I guess the virtual environment is an equalizing force in some ways. And it's almost just like at work where it's this double edged sword. There are things that got better. There are things that are harder. And I wonder if on average, that's the experience for, you know, at least older kids in online school.
Yeah, I hadn't heard that before. That's super interesting. I mean, all the things that I seen were that depression and anxiety were way higher, like on the rise as a result of this with with young people. I think so.
It seems to be age specific. I think younger kids are having a harder time, I think for for teenagers who are more tech savvy and have a lot of the existing relationships where they can stay in touch. And let's face it, a lot of them were just texting already. Right.
So it's not like everybody lost all their in-person time. I think that that piece of it seems to be different. And then also it's probably still too early to have any real sense of this. But my read from some of the initial data is that during lockdown is when some of these well-being benefits emerge, where everybody was in the same remote scenario. And, yeah, I think.
As as we started to see more disparities with some kids in school, some kids who are stuck remote, I think that's probably exacerbated excuse me, it's exacerbated the problems and maybe minimized some of the benefits to write.
Right. Like there was a democratic, you know, impact on everybody equally as a result of the lockdown.
Which is, again, just like at work, if 90 percent of your team is in the same place, you don't want to be the one person calling in virtually if you can avoid it from from, you know, the Caribbean or something like that while everyone else is stuck at the beach.
Yeah, great to see. All right.
Well, I want to get back to some of the ideas and think again. And I was we were talking about Michigan earlier. I mean, when I when when I was young, we moved to Washington, D.C., which is really where I grew up. And my dad was a government lawyer. So we were kind of in this inside the Beltway community. And this is like, you know, the late 70s, early 80s. And, you know, in our neighborhood, there were Republicans, Democrats.
My next door neighbor was a was a senator like and I just recall, even though there were all kinds of people on different sides of the aisle politically, there was a level of comedy that I think has disappeared like we could. We were friends with all these people. We could have parties and they would all come over and everybody got along just fine. And this is really no longer the case. And I do find myself despairing over our ability to commune productively and communicate effectively.
And your book is very much an antidote to that. But whatever, you know, the gestalt of social forces have put us into this place, like how is this, you know, how does this play out for you? Are we going to continue on this path? Like I know you're you know, you're you're looking at this mostly from the perspective of what we can do as individuals and organizations to rebut this. But on a more kind of national scale, like how are you thinking about the the future of our ability to communicate healthily?
I've been thinking about it a lot, and my first thought is always as an organizational psychologist, I don't have the expertise to even begin to analyze this question. We should be talking to political scientists and sociologists, probably some anthropologists as well, because we're I think we're essentially in a place now where we've got to foreign cultures that do not like what the other side is supposedly standing for. And so most of what I've been doing is just a lot of reading and a lot of asking questions to try to understand the causes and and some of the remedies better.
Mm hmm. I don't know where we go from here. I think that one of the things that happened, you know, post election post insurrection is I just saw people I really respect intellectually get. Crushed and in some cases, people attempted to cancel them for calling for respect.
Mm hmm. And I don't I don't see how we make any progress without giving people just the basic dignity they're owed as human beings. I like I like this decision that Christy Rogers and her colleagues make, which is between OAD and earned respect, owed respect. Being that basic, you are a human. And therefore, I think your your ideas and your emotions matter and then earned respect being OK, depending on your performance or your contribution or your credibility, I might listen to you more carefully.
I might take what you say a little bit more seriously in my own life.
And I think the idea that we should abandon respect, that you can solve this problem by saying, well, I think you don't respect me and therefore I'm not going to respect you like that's first grade playground behavior.
Right. I think that we need to be clearer about how we earn respect in this in this society. And ideally, I mean, this is extreme, but I would love to see people start keeping score a little bit.
Let's go through you know, we have a lot of debate about media as media and social media.
Let's go through people who make claims and predictions and let's actually track it turns out to be right and wrong and let's hold ourselves accountable before we have the data for following and listening to the people who get things right more often. And Rich, as you know, my my read of the evidence is that people who get things right more often are the people who admit they're wrong more often. Right? Yeah. And that is that needs to become a currency socially.
Right. Saying your wrong needs to be a sign that you are willing to think like a scientist, that you are interested in learning and updating your beliefs when better logic or data come along. And I don't know how to get us there, but that's where I want to go.
Well, the keeping score thing, though, is part of the problem as well. Like when you look at Twitter, it's all about it's not about truth or nuance. It's about signaling to your respective tribe that you're a member in good standing. And the point scoring is all about taking people down or holding people to account for an idea that doesn't neatly fit into the, you know, the the prescribed ideology of that particular tribe.
I don't think it has to be that way, though. Right. There are communities on Twitter that have adopted different values and different norms. I know academic Twitter is a popular hashtag and there are entire subfields of people. We start with epidemiologists last spring and continuing to the present. We've seen it with, you know, with people who are debating hot issues across, you know, very complex fields.
I think. I mean, I made a concerted effort to follow people whose conclusions I disagree with because I admire the integrity of their thought process. And that means I see information that constantly questions by, you know, my convictions. But that's not a threat to me. I don't have ego invested in that. I'm on Twitter to learn and to teach. Right. And that means, you know, if I am accessing. Different perspectives from people who have high standards of rigor, I'm learning and I think your point is well taken, that social media and I think the traditional media has done this for a long time to really rewards preaching and prosecuting the person with the soundbite that can that can kind of elevate their tribe and take down the other tribe is the one who gets amplified the most.
But I think as consumers of information, we have choices around that. Right. I don't have to share. I don't have to validate people who are just always trumpeting the party line.
What I want to amplify are the people who are making me think and rethink and I guess I guess is with one of my hats as an educator. The place that I would start working on this is in schools, I think.
I mean, we know you read in the book that I really did not expect this, that if kids grow up believing in in false knowledge, like the earth is flat.
As an extreme example, if you wait until middle school or high school to try to debunk that, it's already harder. Right. You actually need to, you know, sort of take on science myths in elementary school in order to to both get the principles that are aligned with the truth as we know it, you know, on the table earlier, but also to teach them that a lot of things that intuitively feel true to you are false. And you need to know constantly be in the mindset of asking and learning.
And with that in mind, I would say maybe one of the best long term investments we can make as a country is to say, let's teach the next generation of kids to be eager, enthusiastic, curious, humble thinkers.
Yeah, wouldn't that be nice? Right. I mean, there's so many things about education that need to be overhauled with respect to that, I think and that could be a whole other podcast, but I think it's super important.
And one of the reasons why we homeschool our kids early on to avoid some of those pitfalls and, you know, the future will tell us whether that was a correct decision or not. But so far, so good. But, you know, I want to get to some of the practices. You know, you talked about welcoming differing points of view into your into your world and into your feed so that you're constantly being challenged. But as somebody who's who's, you know, so successful and kind of at the top of their field, it would be very easy for you to become calcified around your thinking, to surround yourself with sycophants and people that tell you you're great.
But, you know, what I get from you is a tremendous amount of humility and curiosity and this this like desire, this thirst for learning, for, you know, expanding your perspective. So how can somebody who's watching this or listening to this cultivate some aspect of that in their own lives so that they are, you know, more vigorously challenging their own ideas and and really kind of, for lack of a better phrase, like falling in love with being wrong or being challenged and and relishing that as opposed to resisting it.
Thank you. I can't think of a higher compliment than being called humble and curious, and that's who I want to be. I don't think I always show up that way successfully, but it's certainly in my value system. And the idea that you've taken any of that from, you know, from my work or or anything I've done is is a little bit encouraging. But I don't want to be surrounded by sycophants. And so my first instinct is to say, wait a minute, go back, find some moments when I lacked humility, when I wasn't curious enough and help me learn from those.
And I think the motivation behind that is the same one that you've had throughout your life.
I do want to turn the tables on you at some point in this conversation, because your whole your story, as I know it, is you are a dedicated freethinker.
You know everything I know about your story from, you know, rethinking your addictions to your exercise habits, to your nutrition, to now what you do for a living, going from practicing law to, you know, now you're a thought leader, you're a podcast or you're a writer. Every one of those decisions was a major opportunity. I think, again, and I want to understand better how you did that. I saw the look on your face.
You're not going to let me turn the tables yet. So I will try to answer your.
But I know you do this in lots of podcasts and with with varying degrees of willingness on behalf of the host. I'll indulge you a little bit. But this is this is about you. But I will say this.
I do find myself resistant or somewhat calcified around certain ideas that I have that are part and parcel of of my identity, like I'm constantly.
Trying not to overly identify with the vegan thing like that's part of who I am, but I've actually worked very hard to make sure that that's not like the entirety of of, you know, how people know me. And I've tried to, you know, expand my curiosity and other directions. But I feel it coming up, particularly in the context of of addiction recovery, like a somebody who got so, you know, I went to a treatment center and then I've been in AA for, you know, over two decades.
At this point. It's helped me get sober. It helped me get sober. It saved my life, continues to save my life. I'm devoted to helping other people achieve and maintain sobriety. Being of service in that program is, you know, core to who I am. And I've seen people's lives change in such dramatic fashion. And I'm I'm an adherent and a proponent of this lifestyle. And yet every single year without fail, they'll be somebody who comes along who says everything you know about addiction and recovery is wrong and doesn't work.
Here's the new way.
And I'll feel my you know, my back goes up and I get defensive about it. And so I'm always endeavouring to look at that and figure out how not to be defensive to to entertain new ways of thought that in a manner that isn't threatening my identity.
A perfect example would be all the work that's being done right now and psychedelics and kind of the the advent of things like ayahuasca, which to me is anathema to my own program. It's not for me. And yet I have to acknowledge that there is a lot of amazing science coming out right now about the impact of these substances.
And and I want to approach that from a perspective of curiosity rather than defensiveness. But that's that would be one example of where I feel it kind of percolating up. I love that.
That's that's exactly what I'm trying not to have a goal of changing anybody's mind or behavior. But if I did have that goal, it would be for people to think exactly as you just outlined, to say, even with my core identities, that I may learn things next year that make me want to tinker with those a little bit or that lead me to say, yeah, you know, that's not my taste or it's not aligned with the way that I've chosen to live.
But I can be much more open to and accepting of other people's choices that might be different.
Right. I think that would be such a great starting point for for many people.
And I guess to to answer your question, I think I guess what I would love people to start, if they're committed to the idea of being open minded, is to begin to know what they don't know.
You saw in the book, I just I started making a list of things that I'm ignorant about.
And my goal is for that list to grow every day. Uh huh. And not to grow because I'm ignoring those areas of ignorance, but to grow because I'm constantly becoming aware of how many things I'm clueless about. And I want that to do two things.
I want it one, to keep me humble so that I don't end up spouting opinions on things that I'm completely unqualified to weigh in on and to for it to stoke that curiosity, to say, well, why is it that I've never learned anything about music? It's not that I don't find it interesting. Why have I as somebody who loves to learn, why haven't I pursued that?
And is that something I want to explore at some point in my life when my sort of I guess when I flip the cereal processing switch in that direction. So I think everybody could keep a list like that. And the goal is, as you learn new things, you also become more aware of what you're doing now. It's very Socratic in that sense.
The other thing that that I've found helpful is just detaching some of my opinions from my identity and trying to anchor my identity much more in my values instead. Right.
So, you know, I would have if you would ask me what my identity was when I was in high school or college, I would have said I am a diver. That was that was who I was. It was my screen name on America Online. It was the first thing that anybody knew about me. I remember my my Uncle IRA, the Michigan fan uncle, meeting one of my friends and and asking, what do you think Adam's going to, you know, major in in college?
And my friend said, diving.
And it was so hard for me to walk away from diving, even though it was time when, you know, both. I think I had peaked athletically and also I started to develop other interests, but it was extremely difficult to let it go because it was so core to who I thought I was and the rethinking of that. I didn't have the vocabulary for it at the time. But the rethinking of that for me was to say, what is it about?
Diving that I'm so passionate about, it's the quest for mastery, so I really want to pursue excellence, that's one of my values. It's the fact that I get to spend at least 90 percent of every diving practice helping other people with their dives, whether it's, you know, encouraging them to try a new dive that they're afraid of or giving them a coaching tip, because I'm standing at a different angle while I'm waiting in line to get on the board.
And that's generosity. And that's a core value of mine.
It's. It's integrity to its following through on my commitments and saying, look, I'm going to learn these new dives, I'm going to show up at practice on these days, and you can always count on me to do that. And once I started to realize that there were values that were attached to that, I said, OK, well, I can bring those values to anything that I do.
And my hope is that that people are a little more flexible in their beliefs and their opinions and they really think, OK, my identity is what's important to me, not the things that I think I need to do today.
Mm hmm. That's super interesting. You know, when I'm listening to you to share that, I'm thinking about this. Gap that I think a lot of people have between. Their values or perhaps their perceived values and their ability to execute on them, I mean, you're somebody who like when you say you're going to do something like you and do it, you have no problem executing on these ideas that you have. But I think that's a real.
Hold on. Hold on. Hello. Pot kettle here.
That isn't that the story of your transformed life? Well, you're going to see you're trying to turn it on me again. I definitely am.
But no, but I look at you and I think self-discipline has to be your master virtue. Yeah.
I mean, I think I think self-discipline and a willingness to like I'm not afraid of suffering or doing hard things and I'm not afraid of being uncomfortable. Like, I welcome that. And I recognize that that's a skill that I have that maybe my pain tolerance is a little bit higher than most people. And I learned that in swimming. And that served me well, but also been a pitfall in my life. And I look at you. And that was one of the reasons why I asked about diving at the outset.
Like, you have this ability to execute on your goals, like you got a master's and a Ph.D. in three years at University of Michigan. There's this story that you always email people back right away. I've experienced that like I don't know how. Like, there are certain aspects, like character, specific aspects of who you are that you seem to have developed mastery over. And whether you learn those as a diver or as a diligent student, I don't know.
But how can you speak to the person who suffers from an inability to marry their value systems with their output or their actions? Does that make sense? It does.
It's honestly something I've had a hard time making sense of because it's it's just so foreign to me.
I have I have the hardwired into you, right? Yeah. I mean, I don't I don't even think I don't think I learned any of the tendencies you described. I think they're just built in. I remember like if if you you know, if if you had a time machine and you went to meet five year old me, I had a goal of waking up as early as possible in the morning so that I could play with human characters.
Right. And I had a whole story that I wanted to play out. And then Nintendo was interfering with that. The Nintendo thing, too, right? Same, yeah. Nintendo is just laser focused obsession. And my problem has always been how do I lower those attentional filters so that they're not Blinder's.
And it's you know, it's almost like I when I meet somebody who has the opposite challenge, which I realize is more common than mine, like I'm I'm really I have no idea because I, I don't do this deliberately.
It's just how I'm wired, I think I mean, the best thing that I've learned from trying to study it is it's really what I end up exploring on procrastination last year. So, you know, give a whole TED talk that's about the surprising virtues of moderate procrastination for creativity.
I write about that in a book and then I find that most people are not procrastinators like me. They're really struggling with procrastination, that's hurting their productivity, that's undermining their romantic relationships, that's causing them to be unhealthy and. I went and said, OK, I've got to understand, what do we know about the psychology of preventing procrastination? And the light bulb moment for me was some work by Futurama and Tim Pichler, two psychologists who have found that when we procrastinate, it's not because of being it's not because of laziness.
And I think you could probably say this is more broadly true. It's not procrastination. Many of the gaps between people's goals and values and their daily actions, they're not because they don't want to work hard or they lack, you know, some magical amount of grit that's a prerequisite for for following through.
It's often because of emotions, not time. And what they're what they're avoiding is not hard work. They're avoiding a negative emotion that a particular task stirs up.
So what I would encourage people to do is to think about whatever goal that you're not pursuing or that your, you know, whatever habit you're trying to build, that you're falling short on and ask yourself what negative emotion is associated with the behavior that you want to do more of or the behavior that you want to stop doing. And, you know, in some cases, it's fear for people, right? They'll say, you know, I'm I'm afraid of finding out that I can't do it.
And so I would rather I would rather just, you know, put in partial effort and sandbag it. And by self handicapping, I don't have to ever find out if I'm capable or not. And that way I can believe that I really have the potential one day for other people.
It's you know, it's frustration. It's I tried a bunch of times. I didn't get the result I wanted. And I'm tired of banging my head against a brick wall. And so it's just it's it's not worth the effort anymore. For me, it's boredom. It turns out I procrastinate sometimes, rich.
And when I procrastinate, it's because I know I feel I feel like such a fraud. I'm a hypocrite. But everyone procrastinate.
Sometimes it's a normal human behavior.
And when I do it, it's because what fires me up is intrinsic motivation, the intrinsic motivation to work on an interesting problem to help somebody. And if I have to do something that I think is not exciting and that doesn't directly benefit people, I have zero interest in doing it. And so systematically I put off tasks that, you know, that fall in that wrong style of that to to idea of interesting and important. And what understanding that has helped me do is to say, OK, I will put off reading a legal contract forever.
And it sounds like you do, too, based on what your career was like. It just bores the hell out of me.
And that means when I understand that I can manage it better because I can try to make that task a little more interesting by calling up a friend who knows something about the law and saying, hey, would you be willing to chat through a few of my questions as I read this? And I know I'm going to be forced to read it in order to have the conversation and not waste their time.
You have to remember what my coconspirator into this. Yeah, of course. I need an accountability, buddy. Exactly. Somebody somebody to force me to get on task, somebody to do what I would normally do if this were a different task.
And then the other thing I'll do is I'll just try to build in a reward afterward and say, look, if I finish reading this contract, then, you know, I get to watch my favorite show, which for years I had people who had actually delete those shows. If I didn't live up to my promises, first it was college roommates. And then, you know, I think I remember asking my wife question at some point, you know, can you just delete this from the DVR?
Because I didn't earn it today. Right. And that kind of self reward has been pretty motivating from time to time. So that's a long answer. But it's the framework that I found most useful for for navigating this dilemma in my own life. How do you solve it?
I look at you coming back with the questions I want to learn from you. Come on.
This is I honestly I really want to let me just explain what was behind part of my ulterior motivation.
I went on this drive challenge in the fall of twenty nineteen that I didn't really know what I was getting into.
I got an email invitation saying, hey, can you speak at this event? It's raising money for charity. Great. And oh by the way, Richard Branson is hosting it.
All right. I'm sure he'll be there. And I kept getting these emails saying, are you training? No, I'm not training Richard Branson is doing whatever he can do. He's twice my age. And, you know, I did claim I was an NCAA athlete. I'm sure I'm going to be fine. You know, I work out five days a week.
No problem. I showed up there and that thing just kicked my ass. It was it was it was in. Well, it was it's called the Strib challenge, and it was it was hiking up and down mountains and then swimming across a lake and then biking, I think the longest I'd ever bike before was five or 10 miles. And we did a 70 K bike ride up a mountain. Right. I was the only one with gym shoes. I didn't even think to get clip's because whatever, I'm sure I can handle it.
And it was it was one of the hardest things I've ever done because I came so unprepared and I realized almost all my training has it's been it's been much more sprint than endurance over the past 20 years. Ever since I became a diver, I went into explosive power and I stopped doing distance in advance. And I came out of that thinking that that was hard. It was harder than it should have been. I want to get better at this.
And you're obviously you are the creme de la creme when it comes to doing the craziest long term distance and endurance challenges ever. And I want to I want to understand, how do you motivate yourself to do this?
Well, it's similar to how you responded to the question about procrastination. Like, I I'm just wired this. I look forward to it like it's my joy. Like I would prefer to be out of my bike all day than, you know, pretty much anything else. So it's not a chore and it's not something I mean, certainly there are days that I don't want to do it. And you have to rebut, you know, some resistance.
But I would say by and large, like, it's it's it it's something I look forward to every day and and always have like I got up, you know, in in high school is getting up at four, 45 in the morning to go to swim practice like it was very goal oriented that then in a way that it isn't really now and now it's more lifestyle, but it brings it I feel better.
I'm a better person when I'm doing it and I enjoy the process of doing it. So the confusion lies in people thinking that that this is this is something that I hate and I do it anyway, which is not the case.
I, I buy that and I get it. I think the mystery for me, though, is there are moments when you're clearly not in that zone and you persevere anyway. So I'll give you a concrete example, which is so I think it was like we did an 11 hour hike and then we did, I don't know, is about a maybe a mile now is a kilometer swim across a cold lake. And then we're doing this intense mountain bike ride that I just I don't know how I'm going to do this.
And I'm guessing from from the changes I made nutritiously over the next few days for the next bike ride. I'm guessing my electrolytes were were just way off our way low.
But there was a moment when I was riding on the mountain and I thought, OK, if I had a choice between pedaling one more time and dying, I'm not sure that I would be able to pedal another. And I've never felt that in my life. I've always been the person who persists no matter what, and coming face to face with that wall and saying, I literally don't think I can do it physically.
You've pushed through that wall.
How sure. Well, first of all, let's let's finish this thread. So you did persist, right? So you did take another paddle stroke and you didn't die.
Yeah, but I had to pause for a minute and no, I don't want to pause.
I don't have to rest. But you finish the challenge. Yeah. And so walk me through the the emotional experience in the wake of having completed something that was harder than you thought it was going to be.
It was one of the most exhilarating rushes of my life. Right. I think I mean, when people talk about runner's high and this was on a whole nother level, right. That seventy K bike ride we got to the top of the mountain and I've never taken a drug. I can only imagine that's what being high feels like. Hmm. And are you able to hold on to that feeling. Oh, no, definitely not. Not a chance, but you only get it when working out, but you can recall it.
I remember it in a way and also. Yeah, I can remember what that feeling was like, I want it again. I also I feel close to that group of people that went through that week with me right away that normally would take me years to build trust and bond because we all suffered together.
Right. There is definitely an intimacy that occurs when you do something hard with other people together that unites you in a way that few other things do. And the sense of self, not just at having accomplished something that was very difficult, but having pushed through that perceived boundary really expands your horizon of what's personally possible. And I find that to be incredibly intoxicating. It is like a drug, but it's also a fuel. And it's it's something that I need to continually tap into to not only remind myself, but also to persist in this desire to push that envelope of what's possible.
And there's something about that that satiates me and makes me whole in a way that nothing else in my life does.
Well, you you just did. That was just a masterclass in a motivational interview because you asked me, do I want more of that?
Like, I don't feel like you're trying to convince me that I'm not convincing you at all. And I just shared my ex. You wanted to understand it. And I'm not I'm not attached to whether you end up signing up for some of that or not.
No, but I as I hear myself talk out loud, I want to be that person. I want to do more of that. I think the other the only thing that honestly is holding me back is the time commitment. And that's that's the piece that also I just I've really gravitated toward the kinds of workouts. And this is reflected in my eating habits, too. That saved me time and allowed me to feel like I'm making good health choices. But, you know, I don't like the idea that I would commit three or four hours to exercise when, you know, I could work out for an hour, like, I don't know where I'm going to find those hours between family and work.
And so if you can help me think through that at some other point, that's the one barrier that I haven't figured out how to crack it. Right. I think I've got a good challenge in mind for you. We could we could take it offline.
But I wonder what's the challenge? You're curious. So have you heard of the twenty nine zero twenty nine series now? So do you know Jesse Itzler? Well, you know Sara Blakely, right?
Yes. Sarah was on that challenge actually. So Jesse started this business called Twenty Nine 029. And it's oh I just got his calendar is.
Yeah I did too. I got by now.
No it's different from that, it's related but it's a weekend experience where a group of people descend upon a mountain. They have a couple of them, it covid through the whole thing off. But the idea is that you hike up this mountain and then you take the chairlift down. It's like a ski, a ski mountain in the summertime or in, you know, warmer months. And then you continue to do that. And until you have hiked the equivalent of Mt.
Everest, which is twenty nine thousand twenty nine feet. So it's a very difficult endurance challenge, but it's also very accessible because you do it at your own pace. It's not a race. You're just hiking. You're not running. You get a little break when you take the chairlift down.
But it takes like a long time to do this. And it's more difficult than I think people realize. But it's very doable, are not a tremendous amount of of training. And so I'm going to be doing the one in Utah. And let's see if we can't get you a slot for that. What do you think about.
Sounds like fun. You're also this is this is immediately appealing because it only requires intensity, not consistency. Right. You're not saying I have to go and become an endurance athlete. This is just commit for a weekend.
Right. And what's cool about this is that you get some hardcore athletes who are out there gunnin, but a lot of heat for a lot of people that do this challenge. It's the first hard thing that they've ever done. And wow, the level of like sort of self-satisfaction.
Like, it's really amazing to see these people in the wake of achieving something that they didn't think that they could or pushing through that, you know, boundary that they never have before. And it's it's really intoxicating to see that in other people and that that, like group cohesion and sense of unity and community is really quite something. That makes so much sense, that's I think that's the thing that I miss most about diving, aside from the just the the clarity of knowing exactly what I needed to work on and how much progress I could make if I put the effort in as opposed to this world of ambiguity I live in where I do a study or I write a book or I give a TED talk and who knows if people are going to like it and even if they like it, if it's going to make any difference, I miss that.
But I think even more than that, I miss being part of a team that has a common goal. And I miss especially with, you know, with my teammates and the divers that I got to coach those breakthroughs where all of a sudden they achieved something that they thought was impossible for them. And it sounds like you've got a whole experience orchestrated around that. Yeah, it's pretty special.
So I'll share some of that information with you after that.
So you spoke at the Nantucket Project several years ago, right? Like you were like everyone loved it. You were like the top guy. I'm part of that community. I've spoken at that event a couple of times. I think you were there the year before my first year attending. I've known Tom Scott my whole life.
We went to junior high school and high school together. Oh, wow. I didn't realize that. Yeah, we grew up together. And in reading your book and and thinking about your work, I couldn't help but think about Simon Greer, who's part of the Nantucket Project community. Are you familiar with him and the work that he's doing in a space similar to your own?
I don't think I am actually so like I should be. Yeah.
He's a guy who who has been really devoted to trying to have difficult conversations with people who see the world very differently than he does. And he does these live in front of people at the Nantucket Project. And he's also done them in his clinical work where he'll get, you know, Palestinians and Orthodox Jews together to have a dinner party and try to bridge the gap. And I've seen him do this with varying degrees of success, like he hosted a conversation at the Nantucket Project with Qantas owns that I didn't think went very well.
And then I've seen him have a conversation with Glenn Beck that I thought went, you know, quite well. So I was just curious if you had known his work, because it seemed to dovetail with so many other things that you think about and know clearly.
I need to and I will be looking it up as soon as as soon as we wrap our conversation, right after I suggest a couple of people that I think you need to meet immediately.
But the one of the things that that I think is really interesting about what has happened is it just suppressed my inner politician, because when you said have you heard of this person? I think it's my job to know everyone who's working in the space broadly defined that I'm working on right now. And so my temptation was, OK, well, can I look him up really quickly and then, you know, kind of dodge the question and not have to admit that I don't know.
I don't want to be that person.
No, I haven't heard of him. We just wrote a book about how it's OK to say, I don't know. I know. And here here I am.
I practiced it, but I still felt that urge to say, I don't want to I don't want to be that guy. I also didn't want to disappoint you because you seemed excited to, you know, to dig into the relationship between. Yeah.
That that whole thing went nowhere. But that's OK. No, but tell me. No, no.
So here's what I want to ask you now. Knowing what kind of work he does, what's the skill that you've picked up from observing him for getting people whose views are so different to at least be open to hearing each other?
Well, I think it's a two edged sword. I mean, on the one hand, it fits perfectly with what you're saying, which is lead with curiosity, you know, ask questions, be interested, you know, refrain from judgement, you know, be present. Like all of these things I think are crucial. If you want to truly, you know, bridge a gap and and reach a place of better understanding, I think where it gets tricky and I think this is something that came up for me in reading your book as well, is the extent to which there is a there is an agenda attached to that.
It's like I'm going to go into this conversation and I'm going to be curious and I want to understand. But really what I want to do is, is still, you know, get you to get you to admit that you're wrong. And I'm right. Yes. Right.
So talk to me a little bit about that, because that seems to be the thing that no one really wants to acknowledge. And I think that infects the whole, you know, environment.
It does it does the I think right away about this work in consumer psychology by Prestatyn rape, where they talk about they call it the persuasion knowledge model. And the idea is that once you recognize that somebody has persuasive intent, a change of meaning occurs. And now what seemed like a genuine conversation before becomes a tactic. And what seemed like a chance to explore an open discussion seems like a situation where you have to put your guard up. And I think that happens all the time.
I mean, I find myself both being on the receiving end of it and as a cause of it much more often than I would like.
And I think the practice of motivational interviewing has started. It's definitely a shift in my thinking. It started to shift my behavior. I catch myself doing it more often now in real time, and sometimes I don't catch it. And then a friend of mine says, hey, you're lawyering again here.
Oh, right. Yep. There we go again.
And when that happens, when I have to to step back and ask myself, is, OK, are there common values here at all?
Are there any principles that we share? And if I can't name any, I have to get curious and find them, and then the second question I want to ask is whatever values we agree upon. Is there anything I can learn about or inquire about that will help the other person better clarify those values or how to live those values?
And where I run into trouble sometimes is either I'm convinced that they have the wrong values to begin with. You know, like when I talk to somebody who says, well, you know, I know it's selfish not to wear a mask, but, you know, we're an individualistic country.
Like, I can't in good faith support living in a country where you're allowed to harm other people. In fact, that that violates our values of freedom. Yeah, right. You can't threaten someone else's freedom then. You're not in a free country anymore.
So I have a hard time with that. And I also have a hard time with when I am just dead set on the fact that the way that they're trying to live their values is not going to work out well for them or for the people that they care about. And those are the moments where I get stuck going back into prosecutor mode.
But I think the rest of the time where where I think I've had some luck and some I guess maybe some progress has been when I've said, you know what, let me just start the conversation by recognizing that I have a bad habit of trying to change your mind and I'm trying to get out of that habit. And so what I really want to do here is interview you. I want to learn from you. I want to understand your viewpoint better.
And I do have a vested interest in people having open minds because I believe that that's foundational for learning.
And so you might catch my questions being a little bit tilted in the direction of, you know, are there are there circumstances that would shift your opinion a little bit? And that's not because I'm trying to drive you in a particular direction. It's because I'm invested in a personal project of building a more mentally flexible world right now.
And if you object to that project, I want to hear that, too, because I need to be flexible. And when I've started with that kind of disclaimer up front, it's I think both sent the right message to the other person. But it's also reinforced that to me, activating cognitive dissonance, if I screw up and then I'm more likely to hold myself accountable.
It is interesting how reluctant we are to want to be wrong, like it shouldn't be such a big deal to say I don't know or like, wow, I was wrong about that. Like to be able to pivot. I mean, certainly, you know, in the public sphere or if you're a politician, it's seen as anathema for you to change your mind. You know, it does feel like in order to cultivate a healthy culture, we need to incentivize open mindedness, you know, on a broader scale and destigmatize this idea of of not knowing and of saying I'm wrong.
It's OK. Right. Like our ego attachment to that is so powerful.
Yeah, I think it is. And I don't know how to do that societally.
I you know, I've tried to figure out what can we do, you know, in schools and workplaces, even in families. Right. And in cultures or systems that we have a little bit more direct influence over. And I think the news there is actually pretty good, right, that when students are taught that admitting what they don't know is actually part of the learning process, they become more curious and intellectually humble and they actually learn more and do better on tests.
And so creating that kind of psychological safety in your classroom for anyone to say, hey, I didn't understand that, and that's not a sign that I lack intelligence. It's a sign that I want to pick up knowledge. Right. That that seems to be a healthy attitude for for a classroom environment, workplace. It's the same thing. Right. Let's let's stop making expertise, the currency of success.
Let's let's say what we want to do is recognize that that knowledge is not a weapon to wield. It's a resource to share. And that means if you lack knowledge, you should not only be given permission, you should be encouraged to go to people who might have a perspective that you lack and let them know what your ignorance is so that you can try to fill some of the gaps in your knowledge.
And I think that starts with with leaders not punishing people for asking questions or for being wrong. It starts with, in many cases, just doing something really basic, which is don't don't just reward results, don't just reward success and punish failure. Put people in a situation where you reward a thoughtful, curious decision making process. And that means we could even celebrate a good decision process with a bad outcome, because maybe that was a smart experiment to run and we learned something from it.
And maybe we should stop rewarding good outcomes with bad processes because that's just luck. And you don't want to repeat that. You want to rethink your process.
But the idea being that this is trainable, we are malleable in this regard. We're not born as somebody who loves to be proved wrong, like we can create incentives around this in our organizations and in our personal lives to cultivate a little bit more of this. And to the extent that we could do that, we become we're stress testing our own ideas. We've become better, more creative thinkers. We've become better conversationalists. We've become better challenged network members for our friends and our peers and ultimate.
We just better humans and citizens that are fair. It's more than fair that it's a hell of an elevator pitch for what I hope people take away from this set of ideas. And, yeah, I don't think any of that resistance is hardwired. Right. There's there's no reason why you couldn't create a culture or a community where people are punished if they don't admit they're wrong. Hmm. And I think we just we've gotten that backward in a lot of parts of the world.
And, you know, I don't know about you, but I would rather reward people who are interested in developing competence than hold up people who are full of overconfidence as exemplars to follow.
Yeah, you and me both, my friend. Well, I think that's a great place to to end it. But before we land the plane, I think it would be helpful or instructive for the listener or the viewer to have. I think the idea that I want to leave people with is if you feel yourself resistant to a different idea or there's a certain personality out there that really, you know, gets your blood boiling. Like, how can what's the first step for that person to take in terms of trying to soften a little bit so that perhaps they could have a more productive interaction?
I think what I would recommend is to treat that emotional response as a rough draft. It's it's it's the first draft of how you're going to feel, and I've never done anything where my first draft was any good, where I didn't want to constantly revise and improve it, whether it was the first time I tried to dive or a first draft of a book that I had to throw out or the the TED talk that I rewrote from scratch over and over and over again.
And then everybody who achieves excellence in any domain knows that it's the constant rewriting and rethinking and revising that makes you good and helps you get better.
And I think once you recognize, OK, you know, feeling threatened or hating somebody else or being offended by somebody else, that's a first draft of a response. Then you can go and write a revision and ask yourself, OK, is that a teachable moment? Did I just learn something about what activates my prosecutor instincts or what puts me in a preaching mindset?
And if I understand that better, then I have more control over what mindset I landed.
Beautifully put. I think you practice that in the conclusion of your book where you basically in this very, really funny and like matter way like you. Basically your conclusion is a red line that shows like the changes and the thoughts that went into various drafts of how you wanted to conclude this book, which is not about conclusions, but about remaining open to new ideas and possibilities.
I'm so glad you got a kick out of that, because it was one of the things that I was most resistant to rethinking when I wrote the book. I had argument after argument with this challenge network of brilliant former students who read early drafts.
And I said nonfiction book does not need a conclusion. It's not a book report.
And anything else I had to say I would have already said it.
And they just they were so thoughtful and convincing me that, yeah, you know what?
I get that you're writing a book about rethinking. You don't want the rethinking to end. But the last page of this book is the beginning of conversations we're all going to have. And it's the start of a reflection process. And don't you want to give us a springboard to that?
All right, fine. Maybe you're on to something here very, very begrudgingly.
And then I said, well, yeah, you know how I could do that. A blank page. I'm just you're going to turn to the epilogue and there's going to be nothing there.
It's going to be the canvas for you to do your rethinking on. And they said, yeah, that's a cop out. We can't let you do it. Why don't you show us your own rethinking? It's like, all right, I get that this would be very meta and I could have some fun with it, but I really just want to be done. I like closure.
I'm not living the principles I wrote about in the book. I need to rethink this. Right.
Well, I thought it was great. I'd never seen anything like that in a book. And it's the perfect book to end in that manner, in this kind of circular way that leaves it open ended and yet still creates some finality for the reader. So well done. I love the book. I so appreciate the the thoughtfulness that you put into your work, the care. You are a true giver. And it's been great to spend some time with you, so thank you.
Well, that is overly generous. I want to thank you for for really getting me to reflect on a bunch of assumptions that I haven't questioned enough. And I'm also just in addition to this being an exhilarating conversation with a different kind of intensity and endurance sport. I'm also just thrilled that I got to make a new friend.
Yeah, cool. You and me both. I look forward to meeting you in person at some time, at some point. And let's try to figure out that endurance challenge thing. All right. Thank you. And I want to hear what your next challenge is. I figure it out if I can be helpful with them.
All right. That would be great. Thanks. Thanks.
So if you want to connect with Adam at Adam Grant on Twitter, pick up the book, your favorite bookseller or go to Adam Grant dot net write. Is that the places that you want to direct people? You got it. All right. And let's do this again. I look forward to it. All right. Cool. Thanks, Adam.
Appreciate it. Thank you.
This is incredible.
Do that. Adam Grant, I hope you guys got a lot out of that. Make a point of picking up his new book, Think Again. Also, he has a fantastic podcast. It's called Work Life. You can find that wherever you listen to find podcasts. And that's it. Thanks for listening, you guys. For links and resources related to everything discussed today, visit the show notes on the episode page at Dotcom. If you'd like to support the podcast.
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